Hells Angels arrive in Toronto for ‘unsanctioned’ event

Hells Angels arrive in Toronto for ‘unsanctioned’ event

A large procession of up to 1,000 Hells Angels members arrived in Toronto’s east end to a significant police presence on Thursday but ultimately dispersed without incident a few hours later.

Toronto police said Wednesday they were made aware of an “unsanctioned event” being held by the motorcycle club today, with a large group of 800 to 1,000 motorcyclists participating in a procession starting in Newmarket and ending in Toronto.

The ride was held in honour of long-time Toronto Hells Angels member, Donny Petersen, who died at 74 of natural causes.

After departing Newmarket at around 11 a.m., the motorcycle riders headed south on the Don Valley Parkway before heading east on Lake Shore Boulevard East, and north on Carlaw Avenue.

The procession came to an end at around noon, at which point hundreds of bikers parked outside a storefront on Carlaw Avenue that is believed to be operated by the motorcycle club.

The bikers remained in the neighbourhood for several hours and were seen interacting amongst one another along Carlaw Avenue. Most of the bikers then departed in unison just before 3 p.m.

Motorcycles are shown lining both sides of Carlaw Avenue following a large Hells Angels procession on Thursday.

Carlaw Avenue was closed between Lakeshore Boulevard and Eastern Avenue to accommodate the gathering but reopened at around 3:30 p.m.

“This procession will inevitably cause traffic disruption in our city. We’re working with other police services, including the OPP and York Regional Police, to manage traffic and to ensure public safety during this procession,” Toronto police Supt. Scott Baptiste told reporters on Wednesday. 

Motorcycles are shown lining both sides of Carlaw Avenue following a large Hells Angels procession on Thursday.

The procession downtown took place against the backdrop of a large police presence with dozens of uniformed officers on hand to control crowds and a RIDE check set up nearby. 

City of Toronto spokesperson Brads Ross tells CP24 that the organizers of the event did apply for a permit on June 23 to stage a “farewell ride and celebration of life memorial.” However, he said that the application was rejected because the event did not fall under one of four categories of events that the city issues street permits for – signature events, one day events, community events and sports events. 

The event did go ahead anyway, unfolding without incident. 

Roads in the area were initially supposed to be closed until 7 p.m. but reopened ahead of schedule, following the dispersal of most of the bikers.

Hells Angels members prepare for the arrival of up to 1,000 riders at one of the club’s stores in Toronto on Thursday, July 21. (Courtest: Craig Wadman)

This weekend, as many as 1,000 Hells Angels members are expected to gather for the club’s national motorcycle run in Whitby.

Police in that jurisdiction have expressed optimism that the meetup will be “uneventful” but have asked members of the public to keep their distance.

“If you see a large group of motorcycles, outlaw motorcycle club riders, don’t interact, maintain your distance. Try to stay out of the line of motorcycles and be safe,” OPP Det. Insp. Scott Wade stressed earlier this week.

With files from CP24’s Joanna Lavoie